33 Ways You Know That You’re About To Graduate From Seminary

seminary graduation

Congratulations!!! Yeah, you. I’m talking to you. You who three years ago walked on campus with your moleskin journal and Gap khakis. You who enjoy discussing things like hermeneutics, atonement theories and the theology of a mustache . You who regularly correct your grandparents: “No, I’m going to seminary. Not cemetery.”

Yes, you. I’m talking to you:

Because you’re about to become a seminary graduate. Which just kinda means that everyone expects you to know how to explain Revelation and you’ve yet another institution calling to ask for money. Okay, so it means a bit more than that. Just a bit.

In fact, here’s a few other ways you know that you’re about to graduate from seminary:

  1. ) You can define ‘paragogic nun’ but when someone asks you “do you use Quicken?” you go:

“‘Quicken?’ is that an imperfect or imperative?”

2.) Whenever your parents visit and ask if there’s anything they should bring, you say:

Dry campus = dry theology. And it’s been a long three years.

3.) When a church offers you a salary of $30K you’re all like:

4.) This is your reaction to dispensationalist theology:

5.) This is what happens when you think of no more meetings in your favorite professor’s office.

6.) When your spouse responds “ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?!” to you mentioning the possibility of even more school, all you can say is:

7.) When you realize you actually have to return your library books (no more eternal renewals!) you respond:

8.) You have frequent freak-outs at the thought of being called “Master of (ANYTHING)”. Because it just sounds absurd. Heck, you only just figured out how to (properly) make Ramen. And you learned just yesterday that cars require oil changes every now and then (sorry again about the van, pops). Sure, you know a lot about what white, dead guys think about God and sure you can parse verbs in five (dead) languages…but “Master”?

9.) Regardless, you still enjoy correcting people’s pronunciation of Barth.

10.) But this is what happens when you read your student-loan repayment plan:

11.) Listening to Taylor Swift results in an existential crisis regarding your calling.

12.) Every other person you meet asks you if you’ve read The Shack or The Chronicles of Narnia.

13.) This summarizes your most recent job interview:

14.) You regularly have nightmares that involve your professors saying:

15.) Thinking of doing life without your seminary classmates makes you wanna:

16.) When old college friends ask if you’d like to go out for dinner, you feel the necessity to remind them:

17.) You used to think ministry would be like:

…but now understand its really like:

18.) Your landlord congratulated you on finishing graduate school by asking:

“…and no, you can’t pay with Biblical commentaries.”

19.) You began seminary being all like:

…now you have no problem telling someone:

20.) You listed “God” as a character reference on your resume.

21.) …the same resume on which you also listed “Fantasy Football Manager” under “Additional Skills”.

22.) You have at least 25 books that you purchased for class, never read, and don’t plan on selling.

23.) At least one friend has asked you to proofread their Greek tattoo.

24.) This was the last advice you received from your significant other:

25.) When you hear the words “group presentation” all you can think is:

(Dear God, never again!)

26.) You wear your tweed jacket on a first date, expecting:

…bbbuuuutttt instead you got:

27.) Your car’s engine sounds like the grade on your last exam looks (#senioritis).

28.) This summarizes your philosophy of youth ministry:

29.) Old associates like to introduce you as “my friend who went to seminary” and all you can think to say is:

30.) Reading the comments section of HuffPost Religion makes you think:

31.) Whenever someone asks you “so, what’s next?” you tell them:

32.) This is how you feel about any and all snide remarks concerning “Masters of Divinity” and “Hogwarts (guffaw, guffaw)”:

33.) When someone asks you why you went to school for so many years, you tell them:

But that’s not (entirely) true.

You went to seminary because you felt called. You went to seminary because you believed that God had something to teach you. To teach you through flash cards, paradigms and endless pages of reading. Something to teach you through the classes, lectures, office hours and review sessions. Something to teach you through community, through friends, through brothers and sisters from across the globe who came to seminary to learn something. Just like you.

You came hoping to become capable. You leave feeling humbled. Humbled by grace, humbled by questions, humbled by the knowledge of all you don’t know. You came to seminary hoping to become a leader; you leave hoping to become a servant; a servant of God, a servant of others, a servant of the Gospel story which you leave desiring to tell.

But as you leave the hallways, classrooms and campus housing; as you hug friends, thank professors and swap high fives with your old study partners; as you pack up your books, pack up some more of your books, and (dear heavens!) pack up more of your books; as you venture forth into the world, into schools, sanctuaries, workplaces and churches; as you graduate from seminary and continue on your journey, you do so knowing that a part of you will always call this place home.

Because you may be graduating. But you’ll always be a seminarian.

 

Which is to say that your alma mater is calling. And they’d like some money.

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Sunday Quotes: Why I Went To Seminary

A good friend of mine recently sent me this article. The following portion is both apt and memorably pertinent:

“I think there’s a broad misconception out there that only those with unshakably firm conviction and profound faith belong in ministry…in fact, the opposite is true. In order to be an effective preacher and faith leader, you’ve got to question. I came out of school more convinced than ever that doubt is essential to faith—that without doubt it’s not faith; it’s a dogmatic belief that can become extremism. The whole essence—the definition—of faith rests on a foundation of doubt, and if it rests on a foundation of doubt and questioning, then that demands of us humility as we interpret the text and serve in the world.”

Chris Coons; Why I Went to Seminary

God, I Have Not Known

WestExpulsion1791

 

Can we stop? Please. For a moment. For some reason this is a crisis. And I’m not sure what to think. Not that you would say anything. But please, just listen.

I’m confused.

That’s okay– right?

I don’t know who I am and I don’t know what to do. My calling or whatever. And for godssakes, I’m supposed to be an adult. I’m supposed to know these things by now. What the hell happened to my instruction manuel for life? Did it get lost in the mail amongst perfumed love notes, grocery coupons and post cards greased with the cheap diners of far and away where grandparents scrawl out a “wish you were here” before shipping it off to their Billy, Bobby and- dadgummit what’s your name?- grandkids? It must have. Because it’s not here. And I haven’t a clue.

So I wake up, I brush my teeth. I boil an egg and I eat it- with a piece of toast- while I’m reading my Bible. Properly. With an austere facade of understanding.

I walk uphill- both ways so I don’t lie to my kids. The air is frigid right today. I breathe hard, I think hard. I sit in rooms that reek of stale effort. And I take books, flip them open, their pages crinkle and fold under my fingers. And I listen. I read. I hear.

You can know God, the German professor says, his words like harsh snow upon this barren ground. But you can never comprehend God.

I jot this down, in the margins of my paper. Apart from the real notes. The actual notes. The non-anecdotal notes. The ones I’ll actually be tested on. The ones that really don’t matter.

In Hebrew the word for knowing signifies a much deeper kind of intimacy. Adam knew his wife Eve and she gave birth to a son. Of course he then killed his brother and they were all still banished. Lot of good that did them. I can’t help but wonder: Eve…Adam…did you at least grab some more fruit before you left?

Stupid question, perhaps. But it’d help me understand.

When I was a child I wanted to be (in no particular order) a police man, a trumpeter, a quarterback with chiseled arms pointing up to heaven as we run out on Friday nights, a drummer in a punk band (dreadful phase, that one was) and finally an auspicious poet, the sort which is allowed to smoke putrid tobacco which attaches itself to my untrimmed beard for days prompting adoration from throngs of women, the kind that use pencils for hair pins, waiting for the next word I speak as they push back their glasses.

Class ends. I lift my books like a hen covering her chicks. It’s time to walk home.

Outside a moth lies on the ground, frozen at my feet. It’s body looks like an hourglass when I crane my neck.

Perhaps I am Moses in the desert and the Spirit is just having trouble lighting the bush. Or maybe I’m Elijah in the wilderness and the delivery angel with my food screwed up his directions. Perhaps I’m what’s-his-face (damn, I should’ve paid more attention in Sunday school) with the fleece. And both mornings it’s wet and I’m confused and there’s that feeling like nausea, or maybe butterflies, like prom night and hospital waiting rooms and punching and laughing and crying out screaming “what the hell do I do now?” all at the same time. That kinda of feeling. And I know you’ve felt it too- because of that whole incarnation shindig. So maybe, just maybe, you could allow this? For just a second?

I step over the moth.

Robert Falcon Scott led a British expedition to the south pole. They arrived 34 days after a Norwegian group had already claimed the prize. Returning from failure, every member of the expedition perished. Before dying (the following is speculation, but if you’ll allow me it might be true) a final man with a final page of his journal, gripped a pencil and scrawled through the frost: “God, we have not known.”

And I do not know who I am or what I am. I’m not innocent, but I’ve no grandiose guilt for which I should atone. I am not smart or talented- as Einstein once said- at best I’m strangely curious.

And this curiosity grips me, like hunger, like love, like lust, like fear. It grips me and I just want to know.

I arrive home. The apartment is quiet. A note from my wife says she’s at the gym. I put on water. Cut up some vegetables. Perhaps this commentary would make a good cutting board.

This is who I am. And it’s what I do. For God, I have not known.

Could we ever?